Gazette opinion: College-in-high-school classes take off

2014-04-18T00:00:00Z Gazette opinion: College-in-high-school classes take off The Billings Gazette
April 18, 2014 12:00 am

The next step in a new dual-enrollment program depends on what Billings high school students decide next week.

Registration begins Tuesday for fall classes. The course selection includes new classes in college algebra and college welding. Each class offers students the opportunity to earn high school credit and credits from Montana State University Billings.

The college algebra classes offered at Skyview, Senior and West and the college welding at the Career Center would add to the college options already available at the Career Center.

Career Center classes

This year, an articulation agreement between the Career Center and City College has allowed high school students to take a technical math class that will give them college credit, if they then complete a semester at City College, the school district’s Brenda Koch explained. It’s a great incentive for students to get ready for college.

The Career Center will continue the college technical math class next fall and add a college technical writing course, as part of the agreement with its next-door neighbor, City College.

The word is out about that technical math class. When Career Center students registered earlier this spring, 37 signed up for the math course next fall, according to Principal Scott Anderson. That’s nearly three times the number registering last fall for the debut semester. And 17 students registered for the fall technical writing class.

Anderson points out that during next school year, a Career Center student has the potential to obtain 16 hours of college credit – if that student completed technical math and writing and two semesters of college welding. What a great start on post-secondary education for a young person interested in a metals career.

There is no fee for high school students taking the technical math or writing classes.

Lower college costs

A key component of the new dual credit program (algebra and welding) is the cost: $50 per credit hour – less than half of the cost when a previous dual-enrollment plan fizzled several years ago. Last year, the Montana Board of Regents approved a standard discount for dual credit that dropped the cost of a three-credit course to $150 from the usual charge of $550.

Another critical component is qualified high school teachers willing to teach the college courses. Koch said the district has identified master’s degree teachers willing to teach, and MSUB is in the process of qualifying them.

The most important factor in this program is student interest. If at least 15 students sign up for college algebra, there will be a dual-credit class at their school, Koch said. If more than 30 sign up, there will be two classes. If fewer than 15 want the class, there probably won’t be a class. (There is no minimum number for the welding class, because it can be taught with other metals classes.)

The value of college-in-high-school opportunities goes beyond earning a few college credits. The classes get students thinking about what they will do after high school. Completing dual-credit classes shows students they can succeed in college and encourages them to pursue the post-secondary education most will need.

These new classes are being offered because of great partnerships between MSUB and Billings Public Schools. We commend the teachers, professors and administrators who overcame organizational challenges to give Billings students the beginning of dual credit choices.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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